Looks like all-ages venues and Portland just don't mix. Grapedrink, the Southwest Portland venue that legally admitted minors but served alcohol, has closed down, citing pressure from investors and the OLCC as reasons. Tonight will be the venue's last night.
Last week, Grapedrink co-owner Weston Sanaee learned that investors would pull the venue's funding because of plans to change admission from all ages to 21-and-over. Until now, Grapedrink—which was technically a business run by the Willamette Athletic Club and had its liquor license under the Club's name—admitted minors to all shows but hosted a bar for those of legal drinking age.
According to Sanaee, the OLCC was “not happy” that he was managing Grapedrink, since he's only 20 years old, so he (and the club's two other owners) thought the simplest solution was to make Grapedrink 21-and-over. This switch meant Sanaee would no longer be allowed in the venue and therefore unable to manage it. When investors learned Sanaee was hiring a replacement to manage Grapedrink for him, they no longer wanted their money involved.
“Our investors said they'd like us to close as early as possible,” said Sanaee.
He planned to keep the venue open through November but when he noticed his soon-to-be-unemployed staff's morale dropping, he decided to close right away.
“Even I wasn't very motivated last night,” he says about Grapedrink's staff at Friday's show, and why he thought it best to close now. “I wanted to come out of this classy. I didn't want to just shut the doors and say, ‘Hey, peace.' ”
Sanaee hopes to reopen Grapedrink in the same location with the same name next fall--coincidentally, after he turns 21. But when the venue reopens, minors will no longer be allowed. He says he is sorry to see his project go, but also admits he is “so much less stressed out” now that Grapedrink has shut its doors. He also recognizes the OLCC isn't solely to blame: The first-time business owner also sites the tough-to-find John Landing's location and his own inexperience as reasons. But most of all, he credits the difficulty of running an all-ages venue in Portland for Grapedrink's demise.
“I don't understand how people can really try for a year and a half,” says Sanaee about other now-shuttered all-ages clubs like the Meow Meow and B-Complex. “It's not financially feasible to be an all ages venue.”
Grapedrink is currently contacting all bands that have scheduled shows for the next two months. Check grapedrink.moonfruit.com for updates.
Picture of the staff in happier times from Grapedrink's MySpace.
Grapedrink at MySpace
PDX Pop Now! supports OLCC reform